Dialogues on Disability – Zara Bain

A reminder of Shelley Tremain’s excellent series of interviews with disabled philosophers, which is taking place over at Discrimination and Disadvantage.

The second interview is with Zara Bain, who is based at the University of Reading.

Zara is in the early stages of her second attempt at a PhD in Philosophy, specializing in the intersection of moral and political philosophy and social epistemology. As a self-identified disabled philosopher with long-term chronic illnesses, she engages in the practice of philosophy in the university when she is well enough to do so. When she is not well enough, she can be found resting and talking about disability, talking philosophy, or making philosophy jokes on Twitter. In her spare time, Zara creates vegetable-based, gluten-free, and dairy-free comfort food, learns about animal politics from her two dogs and cat, dances to beats-heavy music, writes about disability in higher education, and devises ways in which she can produce resources for teaching and learning in philosophy in order to earn a living post-PhD.

You can read the interview here.

But what would Aristotle say? More on journals and diversity

Discussion regarding the difficulty of securing a place for feminist philosophy in non-specialist journals prompts me to echo Kate Manne’s concerns as they refract through the challenges of placing work substantively addressing Asian philosophies in non-specialist journals. First, some rough data on what the historical trajectory of research on Asian philosophies looks like, using entries in the Philosopher’s Index as the focus:


Articles in Asian

in General Journals*

Articles on

Confucianism in PI

Articles on

Buddhism in PI

1940-1949               3            0            4
1950-1959               7            4            9
1960-1969               3            8            31
1970-1979               4             63            129
1980-1989               4             87            139
1990-1999               6            140            171
2000-2009               3            377            303
2010-2014               4            276            232

*Journals canvassed in the first column are: American Philosophical Quarterly, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Ethics, Journal of Ethics, Journal of Moral Philosophy, Journal of Social Philosophy, Journal of Value Inquiry, Mind, Nous, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophers’ Imprint, Philosophy and Public Affairs

Read More »

Benefit sanctions: Britain’s secret penal system

Dr. David Webster from the University of Glasgow on the practice of benefit sanctions:

Benefit sanctions are an amateurish, secret penal system which is more severe than the mainstream judicial system, but lacks its safeguards. It is time for everyone concerned for the rights of the citizen to demand their abolition.

‘Sanctions’ are almost entirely a development of the last 25 years. The British political class has come to believe that benefit claimants must be punished to make them look for work in ways the state thinks are a good idea. Yet the evidence to justify this does not exist. A handful of academic papers, mostly from overseas regimes with milder sanctions, suggest that sanctions may produce small positive effects on employment. But other research shows that their main effect is to drive people off benefits but not into work, and that where they do raise employment, they push people into low quality, unsustainable jobs. This research, and a torrent of evidence from Britain’s voluntary sector, also shows a wide range of adverse effects. Sanctions undermine physical and mental health, cause hardship for family and friends, damage relationships, create homelessness and drive people to Food Banks and payday lenders, and to crime. They also often make it harder to look for work. Taking these negatives into account, they cannot be justified.

You can read the whole article – which is well worth looking at – here.

Let’s discuss rejections of feminist philosophy

Kate Manne has agreed to let me share a post from FB about her experience with a rejection of a feminist philosophy paper.

I received a rejection notice from a journal yesterday. This is a pretty routine occurrence in this game, admittedly. Acceptance rates are notoriously low in philosophy; well under five per cent in the top journals. So you have to learn to accept the rejections themselves gracefully. And much as you slightly dread reading the reports, they can be valuable, even invaluable, in making the paper better. They can help to expose unclarities in your claims, gaps in your argument, etc. But sometimes, they simply confirm that you are fighting a losing battle.

This referee report was one such. The reviewer complained about my use of feminist terms and concepts throughout the paper – e.g., “hegemonic dominance”, “messages that are not only false but oppressive,” and “hermeneutical injustice,” being the specific phrases which they listed as objectionable. And they went on to remark more generally that “the rhetoric of the ms. is such that it will, I think, (1) turn off some readers and (2) distract from the author’s argument. The author brings in some concepts and language which, whatever their merits, seem dubious to many of us in the analytic tradition.”

As a feminist philosopher in the analytic tradition, this is a very disappointing reaction to encounter. Many of us – me included – take the above terms and concepts to be standard, useful, and indeed vital, stock-in-trade. And the people who the reviewer feared would be so “turned off” by the language as to be “distracted” from my argument seem to include the reviewer themselves, ironically. They not only managed to completely miss, but handily illustrated, my central point in the paper. The point being that if one espouses politically marginalized views within philosophy, then one is disproportionately likely to be dismissed, disparaged, silenced, or even excluded from the discipline altogether. One is less likely to be given a platform in leading journals, for one concrete example, in view of which one is of course less likely to be able to earn a living wage, let alone get tenure.

Taken alone, my experience is just one data point, of course. But recent work by Sally Haslanger, among others, strongly suggests that it is not anomalous. Feminist philosophy is virtually absent, and plausibly systematically excluded, from top journals, she argues.

Obviously, the worry here is not that a paper got rejected. It’s that it got rejected for reasons suggestive of ideological bias against an entire area of philosophy, bias so strong that even using the vocabulary common in this area is sufficient grounds for rejection. It seemed to me that it would be useful to open a discuss here in which people can share similar experiences.

So have at it!

Racist housing policies

An excellent brief article.

An example:

On the Federal Housing Administration’s overtly racist policies in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s

The second policy, which was probably even more effective in segregating metropolitan areas, was the Federal Housing Administration, which financed mass production builders of subdivisions starting in the ’30s and then going on to the ’40s and ’50s in which those mass production builders, places like Levittown [New York] for example, and Nassau County in New York and in every metropolitan area in the country, the Federal Housing Administration gave builders like Levitt concessionary loans through banks because they guaranteed loans at lower interest rates for banks that the developers could use to build these subdivisions on the condition that no homes in those subdivisions be sold to African-Americans.

C.S.I. Jenkins on love and sex education

In a column in The Globe and Mail, “What’s Love Got to Do with Sex Ed? Maybe Everything” Jenkins writes,

Ontario schools are introducing a new sex ed curriculum this September, one that covers topics such as sexting and consent as opposed to merely the mechanics of sex. Predictably, some parents are vocally outraged.

But among the voices in what’s been called a “coalition of the pure,” some are more interesting than others. Recently The Globe and Mail reported that Michal Szczech, a father of two, is not dismayed by what appears on the new curriculum but by what is missing from it. Szczech is said to be calling for classes that will cover not just sex, but love.

Now that’s not a bad idea. There’s just one huge snag: What do you teach?

Read Jenkins’ column here.

C.S.I. Jenkins is the Canada Research Chair in Philosophy at the University of British Columbia, and is writing a book on the nature of romantic love.

A business argument for diversity (& a cartoon)

Not a new argument, but a useful source:

“fooled by Experience”
Soyer, Emre
Hogarth, Robin M.
Harvard Business Review. May2015, Vol. 93 Issue 5, p72-77. 6p.
As Peter Drucker wrote, “The first rule in decision making is that one does not make a decision unless there is disagreement.” To devise healthy strategies, executives need to hear many perspectives, including feedback that is critical of their own actions. Executives should surround themselves with people from diverse backgrounds and promote independent thinking in their team. Many executives task certain coworkers, friends, or family members with speaking frankly on important matters.
Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, stresses the importance of building a brain trust, a group of advisers who will deflate egos and voice unpopular opinions. He argues in his September 2008 HBR article that disagreements in meetings end up benefiting everyone in the long run, because “it’s far better to learn about problems from colleagues when there’s still time to fix them than from the audience after it’s too late.”

Also from the same issue of the Harvard Business Review:

A company’s reputation is reliant on the conduct of its employees. Posting “funny” videos of yourself online? What were you thinking?

Austin TX staff training session: Men Are From Earth, Women Aren’t

The city of Austin, Texas recently elected a municipal council with a majority of women councilors. The city manager’s office deemed this such a profound change to the operations of government that a special training session was arranged to teach city staff, who are apparently recruited directly from the monastery of Mount Athos, how to work with women-folk.

Surprisingly, an office that thinks this session is a good idea seems not to be an office rich in contacts with workplace gender experts. So one of the expert presenters turned up and cited that locus classicus of empirical evidence and conceptual subtlety, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. And the other based his warnings — notably, that women ask a lot of questions and don’t like numbers — on his personal experience:

The city commission [Allen] had worked with is all-female, which apparently qualified him for the job. Plus, he has an 11-year-old daughter who plays volleyball. (Allen was later fired from his city manager position for unrelated reasons.)

I’m glad to hear that the firing was for unrelated reasons. Letting their 11 year-old play volleyball would be a terrible reason to fire someone.

After the Internet and social media got their WTF on, the city manager appears to have realized that an apology was called for. That was good. But his apology wasn’t for the right thing. That was bad.

“I have to acknowledge that this particular training should have received proper vetting. I must take responsibility for that not having occurred,” [Austin city manager Marc] Ott states to reporters.

Well, no. The problem wasn’t a failure to vet the content of the presentations; arguably the presenters did more or less what they were supposed to do. The content was ridiculous because the idea for this training session was terrible. (Because there are philosophers on the Internet: of course in a different possible world, an idea for a training session might not be terrible. E.g., if it were already known that the staff environment were one hostile to women. In that very different case, though, a very different kind of intervention than this would have been required — earlier, and not simply because more women had been elected.) A better apology in this case would have focused on the decision to arrange staff training of this sort in the first place: i.e., predicated on lazy generalizations about women, and on the idea that accountability to women representatives is a deviant case, requiring special preparation for staff beyond basic professionalism, courtesy, and respect.


The APA Newsletter on LGBT Issues in Philosophy invites members to submit papers, book reviews, and professional notes for publication in the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 editions. Submissions can address issues in the areas of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender, and sexuality studies, as well as issues of concern for
LGBT people in the profession. The newsletter seeks quality paper submissions for anonymous review. Reviews and notes should address recent books, current events, or emerging trends. Members who give papers at APA Division Meetings, in particular, are encouraged to submit their work by the appropriate deadlines.


Fall Issue: June 15, 2015

Spring Issue: January 15 1, 2016

These deadlines are based on the APA National Office deadlines for submitting

materials for publication in the fall and spring issues of their newsletters.


Papers should not exceed 12,000 words.

Reviews and Notes should not exceed 5,000 words.

All submissions must use endnotes.

All papers should be prepared for anonymous-review.

Submit all manuscripts electronically (PDF or MS Word), and direct questions to:

Kory Schaff

Editor, APA Newsletter on LGBT Issues in Philosophy



O no! Irrational philosopher

The Guardian characterizes the lead character in Woody Allen’s new film, “Irrational Man”:

Joaquin Phoenix plays Abe Lucas, a sketchily imagined philosophy professor with a reputation as a devilishly handsome wild man. He is a charismatic lecturer and a great seducer of women, both faculty members and students (the movie is notionally set in the present, but seems to come from a pre-90s age in which this latter campus activity was not rigorously policed and frowned upon).

Consider yourself warned/policed.